Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Why I dance for V-Day and One Billion Rising

In Emotions, music, Nia, Nia Class, Sensatioin, spirit, teaching, The Body's Way, Uncategorized on February 4, 2015 at 11:18 pm

10306232_356304124537354_4563745761935799094_nFor the past three years I have been honoured and excited to participate in the One Billion Rising dance events that celebrate V-Day. A day that symbolizes the end of violence towards women and girls across the world. The Nia community in Southern Ontario, Canada, has risen and danced with pride and passion to show their support for such an important, global issue. The horrific statistic is this: 1 in 3 women and girls will be physically abused or raped in her lifetime. Eve Ensler, author of the famous Vagina Monologues, was made aware of the pandemic proportions of this issue as women came forward and shared their traumatic onebillionrisingexperiences with her. In response, she has allowed her play (The Vagina Monologues) to be used as a tool to bring awareness and create solidarity, and support an end to violence against women. Over the years, this movement has grown exponentially and thousands of grassroots organizations around the world have begun rising together to raise awareness and funds for local shelters and services. Find out more about this movement here:

Why do I dance for OBR? Firstly, because I represent the 1 in 3 women, and it is important that we share our stories and support each other in healing and moving on. Next, dancing roots me into my body where I get centred and feel safe and calm, even when I’m surrounded by chaos. I feel immensley empowered when I move in my skin, sensing strength, speed, agility, flexibility and stability. These sensations were not always easy for me to get in touch with because I got cut off from my body, as so many women do when they experience abuse. The body can be associated with the pain, and to be aware of it is too overwhelming. Therefore, I reclaim MY BODY for MY PLEASURE, and not for the pain another inflicted on me. Nia has been instrumental in guiding me to do this. And it is now my honour and Pleasure to guide others in a Nia practice to reclaim their Body’s visceral Joy!

1613922_749596358391477_796572541_nAnother huge reason I dance for this global movement is for Freedom. I can experience freedom in my body even though I suffered abuse in it. Now I Am healing, and the dance represents that. I also experience freedom in my emotional body – joy and fun where their used to be shame and self-consciousness. I no longer feel the need to hide away because I shake and jiggle when I wiggle! I am a woman and there are parts of my body DESIGNED to wiggle with movement! I release the shame and self-consciousness! My mental body is freed because I cannot worry while I dance, and my spirit body is freed as I connect with others in my immediate space through shared music, purpose and choreography, and around the planet through our shared intention to end the injustice of gender inequality.

There is another reason I choose to dance for this cause. It is my unshakeable belief (from personal experience) that movement of any form, helps to release, shake out, and dislodge blockages of energy. These blocks can be caused by many things, and in the case of abuse or rape, the blocks are of pain, fear and anger. Some women never tell anyone about their experiences, and so the energy of the trauma gets stuck somewhere in their bodies and turns into depression, cutting, obsessive eating or starvation, and chronic disease or illness, to name but a few. By moving the physical body with dance (or yoga, massage, walking…) and infusing the space with uplifting and powerful music, the combination of personal focus to release the energy and the physical motion, gets those trapped emotions moving and releasing! It is a wonderful healing and empowering practice to dance in order to reclaim your body, your temple, your pleasure vessel!


The flashmob event is an ideal way to generate awareness because people are naturally drawn to visual spectacles of music and movement, so I very much hope you will join me as I dance and rise in the 3 locations around Kitchener-Waterloo on this coming V-Day! The details are listed below. Click HERE to learn the steps with my video! Please share!

9 am – Nia Class with a focus on One Billion Rising at the Awaken Wellness Centre. Click HERE for location details. All proceeds from this event will be donated to a local women’s shelter.

11 am – Conestoga Mall in Waterloo, near the food court.

Noon – Kitchener Farmer’s Market, at the bottom of the main stairs inside.


30 Years of Nia

In Aikido, Alexander Technique, belt intensives, Dojo, Duncan, Feldenkrais, jazz, mind, modern, music, Nia, Nia Class, Sensatioin, Tae Kwon-do, Tai Chi, The Body's Way on August 21, 2013 at 11:46 pm

This year is Nia’s 30th birthday, and I plan to celebrate that fact in every class.

In this inspiring video, founder Debbie Rosas and President Jeff Stewart share their thanks in celebrating Nia’s 30th anniversary. It includes a touching story from a Nia instructor who resolved tension in her legs, a white belt graduate suffering from Cerebral Palsy who can now hold herself up and walk, and an exciting story of a Zumba instructor who was amazed at the difference Nia made in her life and teaching style.

Aerobics_LivingPages It was in 1983 when Debbie and Carlos Rosas first took off their shoes and began to really move their bodies. Before then, both Debbie and Carlos (Nia co-creators) had been running a successful aerobics club called The Bod Squad in San Fransisco, California. Their motivation to create Nia was the high rate of injury and burnout they saw in their aerobics clients and instructors, as well as their own personal feelings of pain and discomfort in their bodies as they got up each morning. They truly believed fitness was to make you stronger and more supple, not to hurt or injure or cause recurring pain; so their journey began in the martial arts.

Foot In the Dojo Debbie and Carlos were asked to remove their shoes and move. They began doing leg lifts and jumping jacks, and the martial artist sadly shook his head and said, “You have forgotten how to move.” How was this possible? Leading aerobics instructors not knowing how to move? Both Debbie and Carlos left with more questions than they had arrived with!

Over the next 13 years Debbie and Carlos embraced a totally new way of exercising, one focused on pleasurable sensations in the body, throwing out that “no pain, no gain” motto that has haunted fitness institutions for decades!  From this was born the fusion fitness trend where Debbie and Carlos began incorporating first, more martial arts into their dance choreography, and later healing arts movement forms (such as yoga).

9380454919_f887d5f757_b Just as it took yoga many many years to work its way into ‘mainstream’ fitness clubs and studios, Nia too is on that same journey. I, and thousands of others who have experienced the magic and power of Nia in life and on the dance floor, am in on this special movement practice’s secret. But there really is no secret! It’s a simple truth: do what feels good, and you will heal and get stronger. Listen to what your body tells you (by way of it’s sensations) and you will grow and evolve into the most beautiful version of yourself with ease, grace and most importantly, Joy. Nia is now practiced in over 45 countries world wide and trainings are also offered all over the world for the purpose of personal growth and for teacher training.


Nia is a sensory-based movement practice that is designed to build an awareness of your own body in order to better serve it – whether you need strengthening, weight management, cardio endurance, rehabilitation from an injury or emotional or mental clarity and peace. Nia is a blend of 9 movement forms from 3 disciplines – The Martial Arts (Tae Kwon Do, Tai Chi, Aikido), the Dance Arts (Jazz, Modern, Duncan), and the Healing Arts (yoga, Alexander Technique, The Work of Moshe Feldenkrais). It is danced barefoot to soul-stirring music and can be adapted to individual needs and abilities. Each class lasts around 55 minutes and is choreographed using 52 basic moves, steps and stances that anyone can learn. All of the moves are based on the natural design of the human body, what we refer to as The Body’s Way. No prior movement or dance experience is necessary to participate. All you need is a desire to be alive and moving, and the curiosity to try something new!

Find classes at

nia-mark-medium-black.jpg Love your body, love your life!      Dance through life!

Smokers have it right… sort of.

In chi, Life skills, mind, music, Nia, Nia Class, spirit, Tai Chi on February 15, 2012 at 6:31 am

Smokers have something going for them that non-smokers don’t. It’s the required 15 minute break every few hours throughout the day. No one seems to question them. No one tells them they can’t go. After all, they are addicted. They are sick and cannot help themselves. I mean, who else do you know, who doesn’t smoke, takes a 15 minute respite away from their job, desk, daily routine, whatever! totally and completely for themselves at regular intervals through the day? Ha! Speaking from personal experience here, I have been both: a smoker and a non smoker. I am currently a non smoker, and sometimes I miss the nasty, stinky cancer stick just because it gave me a “legitimate reason” to have some me time. Because, you know, if you have been around a smoker who hasn’t had a cigarette for a while, they can match even the meanest PMSing woman! So without much ado, we let the smokers slink off to poison themselves into a stupor where brain fog is reset, disallowing clear thought and fresh emotion to rock their lives into something more creative and lively. Creativity and feeling alive can be unpredictable and a little scary from time to time; but now that I am a non smoker, I wouldn’t want my life any other way.

However, I would like to take back my regular 15 minute breaks! But, instead of huddling a minimum of 10 feet away from the building in the freezing sleet or blistering heat (depending on your time of year!), I would like to roll out my yoga mat and stretch. Or, play some music and dance.

In some large airports there are specific locations designated for smokers that don’t require them to entirely leave the terminal. This convenience allows them to smoke without the hassle of having to leave and trudge back through security again. Outside many public buildings there are large garbage receptacles with a plate of sand on the top where the smokers can easily put out their butts. And it’s only been a few years in some cities where smoking has been prohibited in most public social establishments. At least now going out dancing doesn’t include inhaling second hand smoke as necessary evil of the activity! But as evidence grows and people wake up to the devastating effects of smoking to health, these little details of convenience will also continue to disappear. Soon, even the smokers won’t have any recourse to public areas to satiate themselves and relax in this mad world!

So, what if we replaced all the little conveniences smokers have and had, with a healthy and progressive collection of spaces to put down a yoga mat to stretch or meditate or dance? Each hotel, office building, grocery store, mall and airport could afford a room for this. It could be a sanctuary to calmly and quickly recharge with short stints of one’s personal favourite centring activity, be it yoga, dance, mediation, tai chi, Qi gong or whatever! The closest I have seen to this idea is the super short massages (or massages by the minute) in airports. It’s perfect really. If you are spending lots of time cramped up without much space to move and stretch while traveling, getting someone to give your muscles a quick shake up and rub down is very helpful. So why not take it one step further and provide spaces to take on the responsibility ourselves? Wouldn’t a movement to create small oases all over the cities for the sole purpose of rejuvenation and relaxation send out ripples of peace through our civilization? I feel we desperately need more access in our day to day lives to peace and relaxation. After all, it is frequently touted that it is from a place of peaceful relaxation where most creativity stems. Being hunched and tense and stressed only makes us weak, tired and irritable. There is no room there for open and free thought or inspiration!


On an aside, I think this short, frequent practice is different from a regular exercise routine. This practice will surely enhance one’s physical body, but it should not replace longer workouts. Just think of smokers who workout! I know that many professional dancers smoke, yet they are very physically active. This 15 minute repeating interval is for our holistic sanity. Within the swirl of daily activity there needs to be accents of stillness. From the stillness we can reconnect to our inner guiding voice or higher/authentic self. The more we connect with it, the easier it will be to forgive  – being cut off while driving, waiting in line when in a hurry. It will be easier to see the beauty that surrounds us everywhere and let this Love buoy us along our path. I know that my Nia practice can only improve from these 15 minute respites. I can already sense my creativity gasping for the space to reboot and tap into the musical cosmos that sends me magical messages about new music and fun focuses to use in class!


I am starting today! I may not have a specified location to roll out my mat or play music, but I know I can find a place to stretch. I have actually done yoga in airports while waiting for the next leg of my journey to start boarding. I take a space out of the way of traffic and move through a selection of poses that call to me. And every single person who looked my way, either smiled, nodded in silent agreement, or spoke to me in passing about what a great idea that was. People are ready to embrace these places of restful rejuvenation. I just need to find a way to start them! And for the time being, I will start with myself. This is where all great change across the world starts – the self. I will take 15 minutes every 3 hours today, where I stretch through a few of my favourite yoga postures. I will focus on my  breathing to energize my cells with plenty of fresh oxygen, and I will quiet my mind, sending my clamouring thoughts to my internal answer machine to pick up once my 15 minutes are done. When I am at home I will most likely dance for 15 minutes or meditate, since I can control my personal environment more.

I would love to hear what you will do to start this movement. Comment below and share this post with others! Let the Conscious Movement begin!

The No-Show Class

In Duncan, jazz, katas, music, Nia, Nia Class, teaching, Uncategorized on July 20, 2011 at 5:06 am

There are times in the Nia teacher’s early career (the first 5 years – like any new business) where she is faced with the empty class. The prep work is taken care of: the routine is learned and solid (usually!), the advertising has been thorough – posters, cards, Facebook and Twitter announcements, word of mouth, begging friends – and the free classes have been offered weeks before hand. Basically, all the grunt work has been accomplished with flying colours and a fantastic smile! But for whatever reason, the Universe, one’s subconscious, The Powers That Be… seem to conspire against the new Nia teacher, and she comes ready to dance and share herself, and no on else shows up. She stands alone in the studio space.

To dance, or not to dance; that is the question. The options for not dancing are endless and very reasonable. There is always more laundry to do, not to mention getting groceries at this time would free up time tomorrow, and be less busy at the store. Depending on the teacher, he may or may not choose to dance in the space alone. I almost always dance whether or not students show up. I enjoy dancing all the time, and it’s a good time to practice. Especially when there is a beautiful studio just sitting there, empty.

I had a no-show class today. I usually don’t take these occurrences personally, but today was hot and really humid. It made me feel tired and heavy and lethargic, and I had quietly been hoping that the energy and enthusiasm I usually have for Nia would ooze from some of the students in class… but students there were NONE! Oh woe! I thought. How beastly and lonely I feel! It is an insult to SUCH a gorgeous studio (The Art of Fitness) NOT to dance in it! Fine! I will dance anyway – to hell with the heat and my lethargy. No one is here to judge me. I will dance at level 0.5 if I have to!

So, I proceeded to creep and slither across the floor, digging into the depths of my body and spirit to find some energy to dance. I chose not to play the traditional routine’s music for Butterfly, but a playlist I found on my iPod called ‘Butterfly-Rock’. I didn’t quite remember the songs I’d chosen, but it sounded more exciting and the surprise would keep me on my toes. Nia teachers will often fiddle with music once they are comfortable with the original routine. It allows for our personal flare and creativity to be expressed in the class, and it’s just plain fun! The routine started off the same as it always did, and by the third song in, The Way of the Priest by Purekane, I was losing hope about it being the uplifting and surprising boost I felt I needed. Sometimes I just add one song at the end or in the middle of a routine, and that’s not very exciting – well at least, this sticky and hot afternoon it wasn’t! So I muscled on. I got into Butterfly Heart by Chris Coco, and experimented with different arm swinging movements to entertain myself. Truth be told (ssshhhh) I can get bored with some of the movements, so here I played around with different ideas – some of which I plan to use! Then there’s the free dance portion. Those of you who know me will know that I LOVE free dance. But today, I wasn’t feeling it! Crazy, I know! But on the second round of free dance, I kicked myself in the arse and forced myself to skip like a kid through the park. I waved my arms around (very Duncan dance), and got myself to feel the “wind” in my face from my speed. The end of the piece uses the skipping forward while lifting the arms slowly upwards, and then running backwards in repeating sets. This worked up my heart rate and I was panting and smiling by the end – my running backwards at the end usually turns into a silly, “Aaaah! Run from the crazy dog!” sprint! So I was climbing out of my sticky hot hole of alone-ness… and then…

NA NA NA COME ON!!! Yells Rihanna from the stereo!

WOO-HOO! This is what I had been yearning for! I had reached the ROCK part of my ‘Butterfly-rock’ playlist. I had risen out of my doldrums with Butterfly Heart, and this took me up, up and away! I had substituted this for the sometimes seemingly long and repetitive Summertime, also by Chris Coco. I like it-like it WAY more with this music. There are blocks,

jazz squares

and kicks

in this kata that repeat in a particular pattern which can feel endless with the original music. So I had changed it! And it was fanTAStic!

The routine continued with different songs mixed in with the originals and I felt energized and enthusiastic again! An all-time favourite among the Southern Ontario Nia teachers (and beyond, I’m sure) is the track, Rock Your Body by Music Instructor. I had added this to the mix too! I use it as a mixture of guided movement and free dance. The choreography is a lot more interpretive allowing for lots of creativity from students. But today, I just tore up the space and flew through the air and played the strings!

The weather did not keep me down, and I left the studio feeling refreshed despite the thick red-gold sun-soaked air. The lesson for me in this was: dance. No matter how I feel. Just dance. No matter what, I will feel better! Even with no one to share the space with. This was a rare opportunity to fill the space totally with myself! Expanding one’s energy field further than the usual day-to-day size is liberating. It feels like breathing in much much more deeply and fully. It is a way to let one’s spirit truly soar. Dance ESPECIALLY when you don’t feel like it! Use my experience to your advantage!

Emotional Release; emotional relief.

In jazz, music, Nia, Nia Class, Tai Chi, Uncategorized, vocalising on January 8, 2011 at 2:28 am

You know when you have moved on from an emotionally traumatizing event or relationship and you begin to sense yourSelf opening up again and feeling lighter? And then, out of the blue the shit gets stirred up again, afresh, like it had never healed to begin with? You feel like you were kidding yourself all those years, weeks, hours, and seconds you had to make it through, one minute, by one minute, by one… Well. I just had one of those. It sucked! I pride myself on my introspection and self-reflection to further my personal growth as an emotional and spiritual being. Perhaps I pride myself too much? Who knows! All I knew at the time of the re-lapse was that I was NOT okay with how I felt. I started to stew and mentally spin off on the ‘whys’ and ‘what fors’ and ‘who is to blame?’

Being a Nia practitioner who also teaches classes in a local studio, I had made a plan earlier in the day, to practice a new routine. The time for that was coming around, and at first I was consumed with a seething desire to shoot off a sharp-shooting, harshly witty and biting email response to the one that had brought up all the shit again, and really show them who the HELL was calling the shots here! And then I heard myself. I was shouting so loudly in my head that I was shocked into mental silence. Who IS that in my head? I am not a vengeful person. I definitely make it a priority NOT to play into peoples’ games. But here I was, doing just that. Thankfully, somehow, some part of my Self tapped me on the shoulder and said, in the voice of Lady Gaga, “’S gonna be okay, Just dance!”

So I did.

The routine is ‘Canta’, created by Nia co-founder, Carlos Aya-Rosas. The routine is filled with haunting, multi-cultural music, featuring more vocals than usual for Nia music. I turned up the sound significantly louder than normal and ‘stepped in.’ The warm-up gave me an opportunity to clarify my focus, wriggling and squirming in my skin, organizing myself from the inside-out. Searching for twinges and creaks to untwist and realign, I went through lists of words and phrases to create my internal, personal focus. (Canta’s focus is X-ray anatomy, principle 10 of the While Belt. But every Nia routine can be used with any focus you want to create for yourself.) One word kept resurfacing – release – so I went with it. A part of me scoffed, ‘Psh! That’s too simple for what’s going on here!’ But I knew from experience and many books and teachings, that simplicity is usually the best option. We often over-complicate things. Bringing the issue into the physical body, while accessing the emotional, mental and spirit realms, calms us enough to find the clarity we need. As the warm-up continued I sought peace in the motion of my breath as my body flowed through the thai-chi-like movements. Planted feet. Slow motion sweeping arms. Eyes following the path of my fingers through space. The music revved up a little and hip twitches and small, whole-foot steps added an agitating dynamic. As the hips woke up more, I became very aware of the hot and cold sensations flashing through my solar plexus. There it was. Right at my power center, the third chakra, whatever you like to refer to it as. The thing to be released was clinging onto my spine, deep in the core of my body. It felt my intention to release it. It didn’t like that much. It felt hot, then cold and then hot again. I intensified my attention to my breath and kept moving.

The ‘get moving’ section of the workout started off with cross-behind and cross-front steps with lots of opportunity to free-dance the upper body. The tune was, Somptin Hapnin (Water In Me) by Adham Shaikh. There is water splish-splashing all through it, sounding like someone playing in a puddle. As the movements settled into their pattern I felt my core pulse and contract with growing intensity. My breath was loud with a heavy emphasis on the exhale. My arms dangled a lot of the time, and bounced, as my legs and core moved my body through space. Soon I was alternating powerful thrusting and pulling motions with my core and arms with hopping and flopping my arms and head around. During the patterns in the choreography I was aware of the incredible sensations of relief that flooded through me every so often. I was IN my body and feeling the flouncing of the release of that hot/cold knot, but I was also feeling my Witness, watching me. It was comforting. The Witness does not judge. She only watches. She is the mirror in your mind. I learned from her that I could let go even more. So instead of just exhaling sharply with each core-pelvic thrust, I spat out words. Fuck off. Get out. Stop. Enough. My space. The music worked well with double syllables. It was exactly what I needed!

As the routine continued I also continued feeling and sensing the hot/cold core of my body reach the same warm buttery temperature of my muscles in the height of a Nia workout. There was clapping that I used to clear out the space around me, similar to when we clap to scare something away. There was kicking which I channeled my ‘get outta my space’ thoughts into. There were sweeping figure-8 arm motions that I healed the space around me with, returning its currently turbulent energy to serenity. Soon the claps became triumphant and celebratory and the kicks moved into a fun Jazz-like energy. I felt myself smiling. The words also became more positive: Love. Heal. Yes.

I rode out the rest of Canta switching between the celebration of dance and joyous healing, to empowering myself to protect mySelf better and not let others’ games affect me. I am not here to play games. I am here to show others how to love and heal themselves through dance, music, art and anything else that lights up their eyes! The power of aligning our four realms (body, mind, emotion, spirit) into a common purpose or focus, is immense. As I reached the cool down and floorplay cycles of the routine I felt another word surface – relief. My body was thanking me for helping her process the upsetting feeling in her core. The sensation there is quite different now. It is no longer an angry flashing hot-cold knot, but a cool and moving, watery sensation. When we heal ourselves, the optimal goal is not to kick out and stomp on that which caused us pain, but it is to acknowledge and accept the pain. Then, with our focus, we transform the pain into what it wants to be. All pain is, is love that has become confused and frightened. As I write this tears are welling in my eyes. Have I just had a profound moment? I am smiling through my tears. This is real progress for me. Let my words help to inspire you on your journey of healing.

Nia is a powerful tool, resource, comfort, teacher, and celebration. I feel like I say this a lot, but if it weren’t for Nia over the past decade, I don’t think I would be as healthy and pulled together as I am today. The main difference between Nia and other exercises (mindless running, gym machines, aerobics classes) that has the most profound effect on us, is that it is conscious movement. We move with purpose. We listen with our senses to what our body is desperate for us to hear. The ‘hearing’ is done through the sensations in the body. There are many conscious movement forms out there, and Nia is my main staple. Look into Yoga (real yoga, not “flow yoga” or “yoga-lates”), thai chi, 5 Rhythms, contact improvisation… make up your own! But find your conscious movement practice.

In a mere hour, I went from raging mad and desperate to WIN, to calm and relaxed with a desire for Peace. You can see the healthier option here.


Canada’s National Health Show

In mind, music, Nia Class, teaching, Uncategorized on October 23, 2010 at 1:56 am

On the weekend of October 23rd and 24th, Nia will be featured at Canada’s National Health Show in Toronto! I have been asked to present the half hour demonstration! I feel very honoured.

The day is fast approaching and I have been working on assembling my swirling thoughts on myriad topics that could be the focus of this demo. I want to introduce Nia newbies to this magical and fantastic fitness practice. I also want to attract attention from random passers by. And I only have half an hour!!!

“In through the nose, out through the mouth… ahhhhh!”
What makes Nia so profound?

For me, it is the hundreds of years of movement practice that it is based on. There is deep history present within it as well as cutting edge scientific revelations being discovered on an ever evolving basis. I have seen Nia in the press get shallow comments and reviews that skirt the meat and potatoes of it’s foundation. Truly Joyful movement comes from a deep deep wellspring, and it is this that supports us as we trip and skip along the surface playing. We feel safe and secure with all that knowledge under, behind, and within us, that we can let go with complete abandon!

And this is what I want to impart to the Nia newbie and random passer-by…

My focus will be to demonstrate the 9 movement forms and the 7 cycles present within the Nia class. I have used a combination of classic NiaSounds tunes as well as some “well-known” pop songs to grab the attention of the passers-by who are searching for that special something… and perhaps Nia will fulfill some of that “special”!

I feel nervous and excited about this opportunity. I am a natural stage performer and will not have issues with stage fright, however, I very much want to impart the beauty, depth and freedom that Nia can bring to people. Nia has changed my life on many levels, and I continue to use it as medicine to heal my body, mind and emotions. Doing it justice in the short 30 minute presentation is a large undertaking.

The Journey of a Nia Routine

In jazz, Life skills, mind, modern, music, Nia, Nia Class, Tae Kwon-do, teaching, vocalising on September 28, 2010 at 2:01 am

Each Nia routine has a journey of discovery, adventure, peacefulness, reward, anything the teacher can think of. It is sometimes more subtle and personal to each class participant, and in some cases, like the one I will be sharing, it is very direct and explicitly shared as a story in each song.

Sanjana is the routine I will be using for this explanation.

One of the awesome freedoms we Nia teachers have is to be able to switch out music for our own choices and reasons. I LOVE music and finding new ‘clicks’ to the choreography Debbie and Carlos have created. Sanjana’s given focus is ‘dynamic ease’. In our bodies and in daily life, we strive for the balance between relaxation and stress to keep moving forward, to stay productive and content. For my new journey with Sanjana, I adapted this focus to deal with the area of relationships we have with others and ourselves in our daily lives. I call it ‘listening’.  The sense of hearing with our ears is definitely engaged with the new music, and listening with the body’s awareness and attention to pain/pleasure to promote self-healing is included. An intention of receiving what the body is transmitting through sensation is very important for self-healing. In this explanation, I will list the song title and artist, and then explain the story of the track in relationship to the routine.

Rendez-Vu, Basement Jaxx

As the warm-up, this song is purposely too fast. It is used in half time. The heavy driving beats and bass makes us want to move faster and pulse, but the idea is to feel the fight between our mind’s desire for our body and the choreography. Daily we force ourselves to behave in ways that go against our desires, and it’s important to be aware of our true desires when we are denying them. This exercise helps us recognize what we do want when we have fewer conformities to adhere to. Many of our relationships are ones of duty.

Sure Fire Winners, Adam Lambert

This popular track is used to bounce the energy up from denying ourselves in the last song. Its message is empowering and we all need that empowerment to succeed with our personal goals in life. A positive outlook and belief in ourself can make us, or a negative self-defeating outlook can break us. So having the upbeat, positive message with fun, forward-moving steps, opening the front of the body, creates a dynamic upswing in the journey of the routine.

Te Amo, Rihanna

Here we listen to a story of unrequited love. We ‘skate’ around the room forwards and backwards in a repetitive way, mirroring the patterns we can, and do fall into, in our relationships with others. The movement has a rocking feel that can lull and comfort us with its familiarity, but the continual circular movement around the ‘race track’ puts stress on the calf muscles, and after the 3 minute song we can feel the burn. This can be interpreted as the burn we have felt from the experience of unrequited love in our own lives, or the burn we get when we know we are playing with fire, yet still choose to take the chance.

I’m in Heaven, Universal Funk

This is the fun night out, strutting our stuff, and revelling in our beauty and energy. Having a group of friends to “play” with is incredibly healing. As humans, we are gregarious creatures. Playing is very important for our creativity and vitality. The choreography is playful and frisky with opportunities to act out being tipsy and silly as well as exploring the sensuous sexiness we all possess. Scenes from Saturday Night Fever are used as imagery to add spice and fun to the choreography.

Billie Jean, MJ

Here we continue to elevate the heart rate using the movement form of Jazz to stay with the fun energy of the routine. Using images of dressing-up in MJ style clothes and performing on stage adds a dimension of exhibitionism to the moves. What do we show the world when all eyes are on us? The relationship between our inner, private selves and our social, public self can sometimes be at extreme odds. What would we be like if we came into more balance? If we are normally shy, what do we wish we had the nerve or guts to do in front of a crowd? And if we enjoy being the centre of attention, this is a chance to relish the opportunity!

Thriller, MJ

The same moves were just danced in the previous number using Jazz energy; with Thriller, Modern dance energy is applied, along with Tae Kwon Do, to fight off the zombies and ghouls! But then about 2/3s of the way through, we are consumed by the zombies and become zombies. Here, playing with our relationship to our dark sides is explored. The knee sweeps take us around the room using freedance arms to dramatize our inner demon or zombie! Letting out our “ugly” physically and vocally with the deep voice spoken word, and evil laugh at the end releases other forms of energy that can become trapped due to a lack of safe places to express it!

Air Batucada, Thievery Corporation

This track allows us to feel quick agile movements while swinging our arms or waving them around, almost throwing ourselves off balance. This quick moving choreography can make us think of day-to-day life, running around, getting this and that, meeting here, shopping there, cleaning… the relationship we have with the business of life and how we must get through it in a tireless, upbeat way, can show us many things about our Selves. Playing with up movements with the arms, and then loose dangling limbs expressing fed-up exhaustion, builds muscles and stamina, and then releases tension held in the shoulders… We switch from right to left on our feet after 8, 4, 2 and then 1 count, to mirror how we can be pulled in many different directions and how we can either let it pull us off balance, or stay physically centred and flow easily through the changes in direction.

FREEDANCE – Soul Tree, Oka

This is a freedance for the soul. Whatever we need to dance out, we do here. Move through the three planes. Get on the floor. Jump in the air. Move with fluidity and grace. Move with our ugly and awkward self. Use the music to move. Listen to the body. Cultivate the way we converse with our Self. Are there sore spots? Do some movements feel bad or healing? Pay attention to the Self. It’s all about YOU (ME).

Rise, Flobots

We use Tae Kwon Do energy in these blocking and punching patterns. Hearing the lyrics talk of rising up together and being strong together and fighting for what is right, brings a sense of camaraderie. The relationship of the group/tribe for support is powerful and accessible to us. Empowerment brings the tribe together in support of each other. We CAN succeed and we will have support. Feel the strength in the blocks and power to say No! or Yes! And sense the muscles in the core while punching, and realize a punch is also a pull. At the same time as pushing something away we are taking something in. Life is always a two-way street.

COOLDOWN/FloorPlay – Out of the Mist, Jami Sieber

The Spirit of the Earth Continues, Cybertribe .

Both songs here are used for the 5 Stages of Self-healing. We walk around performing a self-check for pain, tightness, etc. And then move through the 5 Stages. About ½ way through the last track, we end the fifth stage and walk re-checking for changes in sensation. Being in an honest relationship with ourself can only lead to health and peace, and by giving time to listen to our body, we open communication pathways that allow us to move forward. The end uses the same motions we started the routine with, feeling the movements fit comfortably with the music and sensing the natural flow that wasn’t present when we last performed the movements. A sense of relaxation and well-being can be felt when we are in the right flow of energy in our lives. Turbulence comes and goes, and we must roll and rock with them, with the comforting thought that it will calm down and end eventually. It is important to keep a feeler out for that peace and flow, so that when we come near it, we can choose to immerse ourselves in it while we can.

Each Nia class participant will have experienced a slightly (or hugely) different hour during Sanjana. And this is the beauty and magic that is Nia. We share in music and movement, but we differ in how we interpret both of those elements (magic). A Nia class is so multileveled, and can be accessed at any level, deep, superficial or somewhere in the middle. The choice is always up to the student. If we need the deep soul-searching in the dance, it is available. If we only want the sweaty, strength and agility training of the fitness portion, it is available. The Journey of the Nia Routine allows for growth on any spectrum, and all Nia participants should understand this. And that is why I decided to share my personal journey of Sanjana (to new music) with you.


PS: I linked all the songs I could find on YouTube so you could have a listen. However, not all tracks are there.  Enjoy what you can!

Teaching Practice 2

In chi, Ekhart Tolle, mind, music, Nia, spirit on May 22, 2009 at 1:35 am

The music in the Nia routine is my constant, my rock. It guides me where I need to go. I know the music so well that my mind doesn’t even register that I have moved onto the next movement pattern; similar to an activity that has become second nature to the body and mind, such as driving the car, or cooking a favourite dish. When we participate in these ‘second nature’ activities, our minds are free to be still, and our spirits are free to soar and gain perspective. It is part of the Nia instructor’s job to bring the students along and create a similar relationship with the music for them, and verbal cueing makes this possible. Once a pattern has been established through repetition, the student can relax into his body and explore the different sensations the movements create. The instructor will speak to the class giving sensory tips such as, “Notice your knees” or, “Focus on the crown of your head.” These directions are meant to bring awareness to parts of the body that you may not think about consciously. Through this pointed focus your practice becomes deeper, and you are able to delve into unfamiliar realms within your own body, mind, and spirit.

A note on ‘bodies’:
When I refer to ‘the body’, I mean the corporeal form that is made up of bones, muscle and tissue. It grows and changes from day to day, and it is our responsibility to care for it and keep it in good health. When I refer to ‘the mind’, I mean the intangible thoughts that run through our heads – inner monologues we may largely be unaware of. In Nia (and many other movement practices), there is a focus on quieting the chatter of the mind. A wonderful guide for me personally, is Ekhart Tolle. His books, The Power of Now, Stillness Speaks and A New Earth, all deal with ways to bring awareness to our minds, and also to find methods to calm and quiet the mind. I highly recommend Tolle’s work to everyone. It is not based in any particular religion, but deals in depth with behavioural and, some would say, spiritual matters. Moving on now; when I refer to ‘the spirit’, I am not indicating a specific religious definition of spirit or the soul. What I want to describe is the, again intangible, but none-the-less very noticeable, energy or life force that surrounds all living things. It can be called ‘Chi’, or an aura. There are many words in many languages to describe this. However, spirit in the sense I use, is individual to each person. No one’s spirit can be the same. I sense my spirit as a quiet, wise presence. It takes a few minutes to tap into it, but if I rush through my days without being aware of it, I find myself forgetting things, stubbing my toes, whacking my elbows on doorframes, etc. You know the days I am talking about, I’m sure! The spirit is hard to pin down. It is not the emotional part of us, but our emotions can be very effected by the spirit. Visualise a pyramid. The base is the body; the middle is the mind; the top (that floats above) is the spirit. It has a bird’s eye view of all that surrounds it. It is part of the whole, but it remains slightly detached so as not to lose perspective. But it is always within reach. This spirit body is important in Nia practices because Nia applies to our entire being. Each routine gives us the opportunity to connect with and explore and play in any and all of these bodies. Each body lends a different quality to the same movements. This not only feels different, but it reflects differently in how your body changes and moves through space from day to day.

There is an emotional body as well, but I will save that topic for its own blog entry!

Enlightenment is a big word. I fall back on ‘balance’ as something to strive for on a daily basis. Balance within my bodies will naturally lead to balance in my life – professional and personal. Then once that state is achieved we can work on the bigger words!

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